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Politics

Bill Allowing Guns on Public School Campuses Passes House Subcommittee

March 10, 2015 - 7:00pm

A bill to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons on public school campuses passed through the House K-12 Education Subcommittee Wednesday, approved by a vote of 12-1.

HB 19, sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, would allow school districts to arm a school safety designee like a teacher or a volunteer to make public schools safer.

Designees could include honorably discharged military veterans without firearm disciplinary infractions, active-duty members of the military, acting law enforcement officers or retired law enforcement officers who left their jobs in good standing.

Steube told committee members all designees would have to go through rigorous training to be able to carry guns on campus. Training would include going through a school safety program which would cover active shooter training and firearm proficiency.

Some committee members expressed reservations over possible mental health screenings for school safety designees since they technically arent required to be completed under the bill.

Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, said he was concerned over having volunteers armed and dealing with school violence issues.

I'm concerned that volunteers ... may not have the discipline ... to deal with situations on these campuses, said Antone.

Other legislators said they were worried about the lack of mental health evaluations as part of the bill. As the legislation is currently written, school safety designees arent required to undergo a mental health evaluation before theyre given permission to carry guns on campus.

Steube said it would be up to individual districts to determine whether an applicant needed to undergo a mental health screening before being given the green light.

"I think it's important to recognize the vast differences between the 67 counties in Florida," said Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, who said there needed to be more rules, regulations and screenings for school safety officials. We need to trust our elected officials.

Some legislators simply werent comfortable whatsoever with putting guns in the hands of school employees.

I just dont think guns and schools mix, said Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, the only committee member to vote against the bill. "I don't think an American Sniper approach is the way to protect our kids."

Arming school officials on campuses has been a hot issue in the Sunshine State in recent years. Opponents of the legislation gathered on the steps of the Old Florida Capitol in Tallahassee earlier this week, saying putting guns in schools wasnt a good idea.

If administrators, law enforcement and students all oppose putting loaded, hidden weapons on campuses, why are these dangerous proposals moving forward? asked Cheryl Anderson of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

The bills Senate counterpart, SB 180, has not yet been heard in a committee.

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